PROGRESS AGAINST PLASTICS IN THE OCEAN
In recent years, headlines across our nation and world started reporting more and more on the huge threat to all forms of marine life by ever-increasing amounts of plastics gathering in the oceans. The media spotlight on the plight of whales, turtles, and other denizens of the oceans choking to death and being harmed in countless ways by discarded plastics has given new impetus to individuals, corporations and major environmental organizations that have been focusing on this issue for decades.
By now, most people have seen a picture of the huge mass of plastic that has been labeled ‘The Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ (GPGP) floating between Hawaii and California. The presence of that environmental blight, along with smaller, but similar concentrations of plastics in other oceans, is now the target of what The Ocean Cleanup Foundation has labeled, “The Largest Cleanup in History.”
The Foundation spent months surveying the GPGP with a fleet of 30 ships and two aircraft to gauge the extent of the crisis. The results of that effort were published in March of this year in Scientific Records. The report revealed “that the GPGP, defined as the area with more than 10kg of plastic per km2, measures 1.6 million square kilometers, three times the size of continental France. Accumulated in this area are 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic, weighing 80.000 metric tons, the equivalent of 500 Jumbo Jets. These figures are four to sixteen times higher than previous estimates. 92% of the mass is represented by larger objects; while only 8% of the mass is contained in microplastics, defined as pieces smaller than 5 mm in size.”
In a December, 2017 email, NPG reported on this ever growing crisis by stating: “A recent story put forth by Ecowatch, relates how a new study from Newcastle University in England has found plastic trash in the stomachs of deep-sea organisms that live in some of the deepest places on the planet. As reported in The Guardian newspaper, the researchers, led by Dr. Alan Jamieson, found that this plastic came from ‘tiny fibers shed off of larger products such as synthetic textiles, plastic bottles, fishing equipment and packaging.’”
It is estimated that 8 million metric tons of plastic gets dumped into our oceans annually, simultaneously contaminating our seas and harming marine life. Dr. Jamieson is quoted as stating that: “finding plastic fibers inside animals from nearly 11 kilometers deep (7 miles) was ‘worrying’ and shows the extent of the world’s plastic pollution problem.”
The statics surrounding plastic pollution in the oceans are overwhelming. According to the group Ocean Crusaders:
- Shoppers worldwide are using approximately 500 billion single-use plastic bags per year. This translates to about a million bags every minute across the globe, or 150 bags a year for every person on earth. And the number is rising.
- If you joined them end on end they would circumnavigate the globe 4,200 times;
- 100,000 marine creatures a year die from plastic entanglement and these are the ones found;
- Approximately 1 million sea birds also die from plastic; and.
- A plastic bag can kill numerous animals because they take so long to disintegrate. An animal that dies from the bag will decompose and the bag will be released, another animal could harmlessly fall victim and once again eat the same bag.
The good news is that Ocean Cleanup, which is also a non-profit technology company, is preparing to launch the world’s first machine to clean up the planet’s largest mass of ocean plastic. The system, originally dreamed up by a teenager, will be shipped out this summer to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. It will be the first ever attempt to tackle the patch since it was discovered in 1997. Ocean Cleanup has great hopes that the machine will be able to collect half of the detritus in the patch – about 40,000 metric tons – within five years. In the past few weeks they have been busy welding together giant tubes that will sit on the surface of the sea and form the skeleton of the machine, creating the largest floating barrier ever made.
Up against that endeavor, the fight to severely cut back on the flood of plastic pollution that ends up in our oceans is not making as much progress as many people would want. In a report for NBC News in May, James Rainey noted: “The more than decade-old crusade to outlaw single-use plastic shopping bags also suggests that these restrictions can face a backlash. California remains the only state to ban plastic bags, while 10 other states have passed laws limiting, or forbidding, cities and counties from enacting their own plastic bag restrictions.” Rainey also reported; “An executive at the Plastics Industry Association (motto: ‘Better Industry. Better World.’) said the organization also wants to cut the flow of plastic into the oceans. But the best way to do that is for governments to invest more in recycling and waste management, said Scott DeFife, vice president of government affairs for the trade group. ‘Banning a specific product that is one small part of the larger problem is not a solution to the marine debris issue,’ DeFife said. He said the bans give a ‘false sense of accomplishment’ and that a real solution to the problem will only come when government invests more in managing trash.”
Today’s ever-growing plastic pollution in the world’s oceans only serves to remind us how much all nations and people are interconnected. A plastic bag dropped along a stream in California, a plastic pail left on a beach in Australia, and a discarded nylon fishing net from a Japanese trawler, all have the potential to end up in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Does it really need to be said how much the world’s ever-increasing population is going to exacerbate this problem? That’s what makes it all the more important that technicians, scientists and industry leaders take up this cause now and work overtime to find positive solutions that will aid the future health and safety of marine life at all levels. NPG is proud to be leading the fight to slow, halt and eventually reverse the population growth that, if left unchecked, will only feed this crisis for decades to come.
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World population, now over 7.3 billion, is predicted to rise to 9 billion by 2050, an increase of almost two billion, or 23%, in the short space of only 34 years from now.In the highly unlikely event that per capita greenhouse gas emissions could possibly be decreased by an equal percentage in such a short space of time (a blink of an eye) the total amount of worldwide emission would remain the same!
From this simple illustration it would appear that without drastically reducing the size of world population, there is no solution to the problem.None at all.So then why do our world leaders pretend that there is one?What is to be gained by pretending rather than by proposing a solution that would solve the problem – a reduction in the size of world population to not more than 1- 2 billion?
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